Mary Delach Leonard

Work/Life Reporter

Mary Delach Leonard is a veteran journalist who joined St. Louis Public Radio in December 2013 when it merged with the St. Louis Beacon. She had been a reporter for the Beacon since April 2008 -- after a 17-year career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where she was a reporter and an editor in the features section. Her work has been cited for awards by such organizations as the Missouri Associated Press Managing Editors, the Missouri Press Association and the Illinois Press Association. In 2010, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis honored her with a Spirit of Justice Award in recognition of her work on the housing crisis. Leonard began her newspaper career at the Belleville News-Democrat (in Illinois) after earning a degree in mass communications from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where she now serves as an adjunct faculty member. She is partial to pomeranians and Cardinals.

Ways to Connect

Local community leaders say a new website devoted to the Mississippi River will boost tourism up and down the river.

They gathered Wednesday at the National Great Rivers Museum in Alton to celebrate the launch of the Mississippi River Geotourism MapGuide, a website that highlights river towns, attractions and businesses. The project, which took more than two years to complete, is a partnership between National Geographic Maps, the National Park Service, the Army Corps of Engineers and regional organizations like the Mississippi River Connections Collaborative and the Meeting of the Rivers Foundation.

Charlie Hoessle helped start the St. Louis Zoo's education department in the 1960s.
Courtesy of St. Louis Zoo

For St. Louisans of a certain age, the statue outside the herpetarium at the St. Louis Zoo depicts a familiar figure: Charles H. Hoessle — better known as “Charlie” — who taught them about snakes and exotic reptiles when they were schoolchildren in the 1960s.

Hoessle worked for the zoo for 40 years. He helped start the zoo's education department in 1964 and hosted the weekly “Saint Louis Zoo Show’’ on local TV from 1968 to 1978.

Provided by VA St. Louis Health Care System

Updated 4:30 p.m., Sept. 23, with new director announcement.

Keith Repko has been appointed as permanent director of the VA St. Louis Health Care System. He had been serving as interim director since January.

The appointment was announced Friday afternoon by the VA.

Repko is well-known at the St. Louis VA, where he's worked since 1991. Before his promotion as acting director, he served as a deputy director.  

Our previous story:

The eighth interim director to lead the VA St. Louis Health Care System is Keith Repko, who has been deputy director of the agency for more than a year.

Repko says he will continue to focus on improving access to health care for area veterans.

The church's doors are in need of repair.  They are original to the structure, which was built in 1821.
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

Supporters of the Old St. Ferdinand Shrine in Florissant are trying to raise $400,000 to repair the nearly 200-year-old complex, which includes some of the oldest Roman Catholic buildings in the Louisiana Purchase Territory.

Age and weather have taken a heavy toll on the shrine's church, convent, rectory and school building, according to Geri Debo, secretary/treasurer of the Friends of Old St. Ferdinand Shrine. The nonprofit formed in 1959 to care for the historic brick structures after the Archdiocese of St. Louis replaced them with new parish buildings.

The historic Goldenrod Showboat is currently docked near Kampsville, Ill.
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

Six months after a preservation group bid the Goldenrod Showboat a final farewell, the St. Louis landmark has again avoided the salvage yard, and there's a new plan to disassemble and rebuild the historic vessel on land.

The nonprofit Historic Riverboat Preservation Association had been working to buy the Goldenrod from the owners of the dock where it has been moored on the Illinois River. Volunteers with the group gave up on that effort after the century-old showboat was damaged by flooding in 2015, and they expected that the Goldenrod would be scrapped or burned.

courtesy of September 11 Memorial Walkway

Organizers were expecting hundreds to attend Sunday’s dedication of a Sept. 11 memorial in Belleville that includes a steel beam from the World Trade Center.

The ceremony is at 2 p.m. and will mark the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Linda Lockhart | St. Louis Public Radio

On Sunday, as Americans remember the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, 93-year-old Warren Nelson of St. Louis will avoid looking at the photographs.


The National Park Service has been studying proposals to extend the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail east from St. Louis and wants to know what the public thinks.

Yes, they mean EAST.

Of course, we in St. Louis know that Meriwether Lewis and William Clark headed WEST from these parts in May 1804 to explore President Thomas Jefferson’s new hunk of real estate, the Louisiana Purchase.

(Courtesy Emerald Automotive)

Whatever happened to that company that planned to build electric delivery vans — and create 600 jobs — in Hazelwood?

Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

Kathie Harnacker is house hunting in Ferguson.

She braved relentless rain on Sunday afternoon to tour a compact three-bedroom brick ranch on a tree-lined street in the Old Ferguson West neighborhood.

“This house is great,’’ she said, while standing in the lush patio garden. “It looks well-maintained. It looks like a very nice neighborhood.”

Courtesy Madison County Fair Association

Organizers of the Madison County Fair say the 120-year-old event will go on as usual this week, despite the ongoing lack of funding from the state of Illinois.

This is the second year for the state's budget impasse, which has held up funds earmarked for county fairs. Organizers from across the state have scrambled to make do, said Wayne Steiner, president of the Madison County Fair Association.

Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

Wanda Trotter, 68, thought about her childhood as she watched a play at the Missouri History Museum depicting the experiences of African-Americans traveling Route 66 before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination in public accommodations.

“I remember my parents packing our lunches and telling us that certain places you could not go to eat, or to use the bathroom facilities,’’ said Trotter. Her  family drove the famous highway from St. Louis to San Diego, Calif., in the early 1960s to visit her brother who was in the Navy.

Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

Fans of the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle will hold their 18th annual festival on Sunday, their first gathering since the Collinsville landmark changed ownership last November.

Mike “The Big Tomato” Gassmann, president of the water tower’s preservation group, say he's relishing the occasion.

“We’re really happy with our new owner, and we’re really looking forward to the future,’’ said Gassmann, who wears a button on his cap that reads “I put catsup on my ketchup.”

Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

Original story published June 23, updated June 30 with audio from "St. Louis on the Air."

Just in time for summer, the Missouri History Museum is taking a road trip down Route 66 with a colorful exhibit on the Mother Road that opens Saturday.

The focus is St. Louis’ place along the famous roadway that opened America’s West to cross-country motoring in 1926.  The ribbon of pavement stretched 2,400 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles, touching eight states along the way. 

Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

“Dogtown? How did it get its name?"

That was the query to Curious Louis from attorney Nathan Goldberg, who wondered about the colorful name of the historic St. Louis neighborhood located just south of Forest Park.

itunes gift cards
401(k)2013 | flickr |

Beware of scammers who’ve discovered the convenience of iTunes gift cards, warns the St. Louis Better Business Bureau.

It’s just a new version of an old song: Thieves ask for iTunes entertainment cards to pay for counterfeit or nonexisting merchandise, or even to settle debt. The goods and services are bogus, and the consumer is out of luck.

Provided by family

On Memorial Day, Beth (Clover) Vincent of Warrenton, Mo., will honor the father she never knew: an Air Force pilot who went missing during the Korean War. 

But Vincent will find some solace this year in knowing that the people of South Korea appreciate the sacrifice her family made six decades ago. She was among the families of American Korean War veterans who spent last week visiting Seoul as guests of South Korea’s Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs.


Updated 10:25 a.m., May. 25 with winning proposal: A developer has been selected to reopen the landmark Bevo Mill in south St. Louis. The city's Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority says Pat and Carol Schuchard have been chosen for the project. They already own two event venues: the Boo Cat Club and the Majorette.

Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

Several Vietnam veterans told an Illinois task force on Monday that the Veterans Administration should be doing a better job of treating depression and post-traumatic stress.

The Illinois Task Force on Veterans’ Suicides is holding hearings throughout the state to investigate ways to prevent suicide among Illinois veterans. Nationally, 22 veterans kill themselves every day.

Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

On a warm spring afternoon, Italian archaeology students from the University of Bologna were painstakingly sifting through mud from a pit they’re excavating at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Collinsville.

Heading the group is Imma Valese, 29, who’s been coming to Cahokia Mounds for six years. She has written her master’s thesis on the ancient Mississippian culture that thrived at Cahokia 1,000 years ago. Now, she’s working on her doctorate.

Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

Jim Alderson and Nelson Grman spend hours at Union Miners Cemetery in Mount Olive, Ill., about 50 miles northeast of St. Louis, looking after the monument to Mother Jones, the fearless union organizer who crusaded for workers’ rights a century ago.

Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

When Robert Charles Howard retires as conductor of the Belleville Philharmonic Orchestra in a few weeks, he hopes a certain musical instrument will follow in his footsteps: an aging 32-inch timpani that has lost much of its luster.

“I’ll miss the job, but I won’t miss this,” Howard said with a smile, as he rolled the dented kettle drum back into its place in the instrument storage room at the orchestra’s rehearsal hall in downtown Belleville.

Mary Delach Leonard|St. Louis Public Radio

The 2016 baseball season finally starts HERE on Monday.

There’ll be a sea of red in the stands at Busch Stadium and Clydesdales circling the warning track, as Cardinals fans put a rocky week of on-the-road baseball behind them and welcome home their 2015 National League Central Division champs.

Scroll down for info on opening day ceremonies -- a highlight will be the first pitch by beloved Hall-of-Famer Lou Brock -- and changes fans can expect at the ball yard this season.

And, because it’s the 10th anniversary of the stadium, we begin with a little quiz.

Mike Michaud, assistant secretary of labor for veterans employment
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

The declining jobless rate for U.S. veterans is a good sign, but the need for training and employment services will continue to grow, said Mike Michaud, assistant secretary of labor for veterans employment, who was in St. Louis Wednesday to visit the St. Patrick Center.

The Goldenrod Showboat's final resting place: The Illinois River, near Kampsville, Ill.
Mary Delach Leonard|St. Louis Public Radio

Volunteers will gather on Thursday at a remote spot on the Illinois River to say their final farewells to the Goldenrod Showboat, a St. Louis landmark they worked relentlessly to preserve.

The century-old showboat suffered irreparable damage last summer during efforts to save it from the flooding river. Since then, volunteers have worked on weekends to remove artifacts -- chandeliers and gilded mirrors, furnishings and photographs -- for future display in museums.

Mary Delach Leonard|St. Louis Public Radio

"Why does the Civil War still hold sway over St. Louis and Missouri?”

That was the intriguing — and very large — question that Steve Flick submitted to Curious Louis. “We just can't seem to be able to get beyond the Reconstruction Era in this state,” said Flick, a lifelong St. Louisan.

Provided by Missouri Department of Conservation

Organizers are expecting hundreds of volunteers at the annual Confluence Trash Bash on Saturday morning to clean up trash and debris from riverbanks and streams in north St. Louis and north St. Louis County.

The Trash Bash focuses on the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and has nine work sites stretching from the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge to Creve Coeur Lake. This is the eighth year for the event, which is one of the largest litter cleanups in the St. Louis area.

Mary Delach Leonard|St. Louis Public Radio

Fog added a magical touch to the drive along the Great River Road in Illinois on Sunday. 

For much of the day, the fog held thick over the water at Grafton, the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. By dusk, the blanket had thinned, offering stunning photo ops.

Mary Delach Leonard|St. Louis Public Radio

Operations manager Robbie Pratte pointed to an orange line on a utility post outside the landmark Bolduc House Museum in Ste. Genevieve, Mo., that is set to reopen on Tuesday.

Provided by The Coliseum Ballroom Documentary Project

They’ll be rocking to the oldies Saturday night at the civic center in Gillespie, Ill., where a crowd of a certain age will gather to share memories of the old Coliseum Ballroom, which was destroyed by fire in 2011.